A researcher at Bowling Green State University is working with a local Ohio agency to reduce the number of heroin and opioid deaths in individuals leaving jail or prison, the school announced recently.
Dr. John Boman, associate professor of sociology, will use federal grant funds to enable Treatment Accountability for Safer Communities (TASC) of Northwest Ohio to provide medication-assisted treatment to help those inmates on the verge of being released stay sober and drug-free.
“This is the state that has been arguably one of the most affected in the United States by heroin and opioids,” Boman said.
Between 2014 and 2018, in Lucas County, where BGSU is located, 770 people died from a drug overdose – or one in every 556 residents of the county. In 2018, it was sixth in the number of drug overdose deaths in the state.
Using money from the Second Chance Act grant, Boman and TASC will determine if the medication-treatment in jail effectively reduces the number of fatal overdoses after they have been released. The research will also look to see if the treatment effectively decreases the number of people who relapse into criminal behavior.
Johnetta McCollough, executive director of TASC, said her organization of 20 licensed social workers help an estimated 1,500 individuals each year.
“This Second Chance Act program is going to supplement whatever kind of behavioral modification they may have taken advantage of in prison because they will still need something to control the cravings,” McCollough said. “They don’t always realize they are going to have cravings until they come out, and then it’s too late because they will find that the drug dealer is their new best friend who wants his customer back.”
Grant funds will pay for an injected opioid blocker that will last 28 to 30 days. The opioid blocker effectively blocks the uptake of opiates or opioids in the brain. With the opioid blockers in place, recently released inmates are far more likely to be successful than if they are treated with behavioral modification, she said.
Boman said that recently released inmates are 12.7 times more likely to die from heroin in the first two weeks after they get out of jail.
The three-year study will separate qualifying participants into two groups – one that will receive the injection and the other that will not. Participants will still receive the full range of other services provided by TASC.